top Solomon Islands career public servant renowned for her fearless commitment to accountable government is this year’s recipient of the RAMSI Special Coordinator’s Award for Women. Ruth Liloqula, the first woman in Solomon Islands to be appointed Secretary to Cabinet in 2007, was presented with the Special Coordinator’s Award for Women at RAMSI’s annual Women’s Breakfast held as part of International Women’s Day celebrations in Solomon Islands. Presenting the award, RAMSI Special Coordinator, Nicholas Coppel said it seemed timely to recognise that generation of Solomon Islands women who had broken through the barriers not only as the first women but often as the first Solomon Islander to hold a post and in doing so, had played a very real role in shaping their new nation. Coppel said he was delighted to be presenting this year’s award to a woman renown for her discipline, diligence and dedication to serving her nation.
“Throughout her career, Liloqula has done this with courage and commitment so clear sighted that at times it has been known to make life quite uncomfortable for those not so dedicated to accountable and transparent government. “This is a woman who had always wanted what is right and best for her fellow Solomon Islanders, who is a firm believer that Solomon Islands not only has the responsibility but also the capacity to manage its affairs effectively and in doing so, deliver a better life to the people of this nation.”
In accepting the award, Liloqula said while she was humbled and honoured to receive it, she also thought it was ‘about time’ women be acknowledged for their efforts on behalf of the nation. “Our country needs us and our ability to survive and keep going in influencing the influencers.”
It has not been an easy road to be doing the right thing and staying uncorrupted when contributing to the development of this country, she said.
“The grounding provided by my parents, family, culture and tradition of my province gave me sanctuary in times of need and when I faced backlash and challenge,” Liloqula said. She thanked all of those who had stood by her, saying even her critics over the year’s had aided her progress and development. “They continuously remind me of the importance of staying connected with the realities around me; of the talents I am blessed with and the importance of using these for the common good; keeping me accountable, responsible and honest and being there to support me when the going is hard and the chips are down.
“Women, when we have done our homework, must persist in connecting with our girls; inspiring futures in doing and standing-up for what is best for the majority and not for self.” Guest speaker at the breakfast, the Deputy Premier of Isabel, Rhoda Sikilabu, currently the country’s most senior female elected politician, encouraged women to step up and have the courage to take up leadership roles.
“As a woman, I still attend to my duties. But I have also realised that when it is time to lead, I must accept it and put the traditional feelings aside in order to take on the leadership role.”
Sikilabu said women considering leadership roles need to make the effort to stay connected with their communities.
“I know the real test of political character comes from living the life of your people in your constituency and your province, so that you not only understand their needs and desires, but your everyday qualities and integrity become your campaigning tools.”
RAMSI instituted the Special Coordinator’s Award for Women in 2009 as a way of acknowledging the outstanding contribution of a particular Solomon Islands woman each year.
Coppel said the effective criteria for the award were that the actions of the recipient must have affected real change in her community and nation.
The inaugural award went to Beverly Komasi, founder of the Mercy School for settlement children; the 2010 recipient was Inspector Florence Taro of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force for her long and dedicated service to policing; and last year’s recipient was a young community development worker, Mayline Sese, who had helped women in her rural Guadalcanal community to take part in a strategic planning exercise which has led them to establish a thriving fresh produce supply business.
Liloqula is the most senior of the award recipients. She first graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Tropical Agriculture from the University of Papua New Guinea in 1977, and later in 1984 with a Masters in Science in the Biotechnology of Crop Protection, majoring in Nematology, from Britain’s Redding University. She is also the first Solomon Islander to hold the posts of Government Plant Pathologist and Director of Research in the Ministry of Agriculture, which later led to her winning a scholarship of merit to study Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering at the Colorado State University in the United States.
After completing of her studies in the USA, she returned to the Solomon Islands and held the post of Officer-in Charge of Research and later promoted to localise the Director of Research Post. In 1998, Liloqula was promoted to Under Secretary in the Ministry of National Planning and Development and in various government ministries up until 2004 when she was promoted to the post of Permanent Secretary Ministry of Police, and National Security.
She also served in various ministries as Permanent Secretary prior to her appointment in 2007 as the first women to hold the post of Secretary to Cabinet. Liloqula, recently decided to end her career as a public servant when she was removed as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Lands after a valiant effort to clean up alleged corruption in that department.
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